Preparing For The Worst

          We are so happy to have a guest writer today on CoupleDumb. She is Emmy Award winner Robin Craig (and she’s up for another Emmy this Saturday) and she will be covering a hard topic: Preparing for the possible death of a loved one. We are glad that she is doing this because we just cry too much. 

         Robin says: I host a show on Mingle Media TV (Robin Craig…Live) on Tuesdays at 9 pm central.  I recently had the great pleasure of being a guest on Relationship Rehab, another great Mingle Media TV show, hosted by Lee and Paul Reyes-Fournier.  I talked about marriage and how one of the best things you can do for your spouse and your family is prepare for death as it is imminent for us all, and I was asked to recap our discussion.    

          It’s important to have a Last Will and Testament (a/k/a “Will”) to designate how you desire to have your possessions divided and to whom you want to leave them when you die.  Many are aware that the government can step in and take part of your estate if you don’t have this document, yet we don’t often feel the urgency to create a Will because we feel that we have time.  The reality is that we don’t know when death will come, so it’s best to get prepared now.

          When you create your Will, make sure that it is signed and notarized and make sure that your loved ones know where this and other important documents are kept.  A friend of mine said that he looked for his father’s Will for three months after the man died, and a number of business matters could not be conducted during that time which caused added and unnecessary strain for the grieving family. 

          I recommend putting three choices (first, second and third) when selecting the Executor of your estate.  When my husband and I married, I listed my husband as my Executor, I put my father next and then my sister.  Well, years later, I’ve now lost my husband and my dad, but I do not have to redo my documents because I’m blessed to still have my sister.

          We should also have a Living Will, which states our position regarding life support.  It is basically a document that is made by a person when still legally fit to do so, expressing his/her desire to be allowed to die instead of being kept alive by artificial means, in the event of being severely disabled or suffering from a terminal illness.

          I’m sure that most will remember Terri Schiavo and the court battle between her parents and husband.  Terri had collapsed in 1990 which resulted in her being institutionalized for 15 years, and she was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state.  Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, battled Terri’s husband in court from 1998 to 2005 arguing that Terri was conscious and should be kept alive while Michael Schiavo wanted to have his wife’s feeding tube removed.

          In the end, the local court’s decision to disconnect Terri was carried out on March 18, 2005, and she died on March 31st. This type of situation is terribly costly and highly traumatic for everyone involved and most people would like to prevent themselves and their families from going through something similar.

          It’s also important to have a Power of Attorney, which is a legal document allowing one person to act in a legal matter on another’s behalf regarding financial or real estate transactions. We can designate someone we trust to handle our personal business and make decisions for us if we become incapacitated allowing our business matters to continue.  You can delegate someone who will be able to sign your name to checks and other documents in an effort to keep things going until you are able to resume the task.  Obviously, this person needs to be highly trustworthy and have your best interests at heart.

          Finally, we need to have a HIPAA form, which refers to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.  It was established for the purpose of medical privacy of patient records and designates to whom we give permission to receive information regarding authorization for release of our health information.  I spoke at a Rotary Club luncheon not too long ago and an attorney was in the audience.  He reiterated the importance of this form and stated that a personal friend of his had been unable to receive information regarding her own husband’s medical condition.  Privacy is important, but we want to be able to know the status of our loved ones’ health making the HIPAA form important.

          Our world is forever changing and the Internet has made so much of our personal information available to others.  We live in a legal world and we can’t get around it, so it’s better to have our documents prepared to protect ourselves and those about whom we care.

          I had an aunt who cried profusely as she signed her final documents in her hospital bed.  She had a terminal illness and knew that her time was nearing, but signing the documents at that point punctuated her impending death and made the situation worse for her. It was heartbreaking to watch and could have been avoided had she created the documents sooner.

          I encourage everyone to prepare for death just like we plan our education, having children, buying a home, planning for retirement, etc.  It makes things easier in the end and reduces legal and personal issues.  Remember – death does not come sooner just because we plan for it.  The planning simply gives us peace of mind and helps things to run smoother for everyone involved.

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